Although it has taken us a little time to talk to Airdrop Bikes as they moved in just before Covid Lockdown – we think you will enjoy finding out more about them when we recently talked to Ed.
Read the full interview below.
Describe your role in Airdrop Bikes
It depends on who is asking! I am the Founder if you like, or if you’re the bank then I’m the Director! Really I wear many hats – I’m the person that cleans up and makes the coffee and so on! I am the founder, owner, MD, whatever really the title isn’t important to me.
Who else works at Airdrop Bikes?
Myself, Andy – who is the workshop manager and builds all the bikes and warehouse stuff and operational stuff, and James – he does the bike design and development. We have all become a bit more fluid about working from the workshop all the time. So, it’s just the three of us and James’ dog Obi (when James is here) and it’s much more fun when it’s the three of us!
What is Airdrop Bikes?
We are an independent bike brand. We make home grown bikes, so they are designed and developed here. We have to have the fabrication in Taiwan and then build them here to order. We are a very, very niche mountain bike brand. That is a positive thing. We have a very dedicated, loyal, customer base. In the past I have said to people if we were a car brand we would be something like lotus – a man in his shed making something that is actually very good it might not have the mainstream appeal or the luxury brand sheen of a Porsche or a Ferrari but it definitely goes fast!
How did Airdrop Bikes come to exist?
I had a lifelong ambition to set up my own business. I didn’t always know what that would be. My own career was in design and marketing in the outdoor industry and for a short time in another bike company. Over the 12-14 years I learnt an awful lot about how you can and should run a business, but maybe I learnt even more how about you shouldn’t run a business! So, I had all these personal ambitions about what I wanted to do and also some pretty strongly held views about what I didn’t like about how other businesses are run. The only way to resolve that was to set up my own business and run it in the way I think you should do things – within a set of values and sticking to your principles is important. When I got to the age of 34/35 I wasn’t ready but I realised if I didn’t do it then, I never would. You probably never feel ready but at some point you have to go for it.
I incorporated Airdrop bikes in 2014, but really I just registered the business and the name to force myself to actually do it. It took another 18 months to have a bike to sell, so start of 2016. We are just now through what you might call the initial struggle to survive as a company. Its now a self-sustaining established business. But it has taken a long, long time.
The key to the whole thing is, it has to be something you love. If you are going to spend all your life savings, 50 plus hours a week, and absolutely invest yourself totally in something to make it a success (or even stand a chance) it has to be something you are really passionate about. For me that is bikes. I love riding bikes, I love looking at bikes, I love designing bikes, l love building bikes. Everything about bikes – I just love it! So to me, coming to work is just something that I enjoy doing and enjoy every aspect of it (apart from maybe the accounts)!
If you had any advice?
I think the first thing is that is the idea about passion – that is pretty well understood. But the reason why I think it is important is this idea about how you have to be gritty. The concept about grit is something you read about, but it’s the idea of being passionate about something and absolutely determined to make it a success. You need the two things. You have to be passionate but determined. I mean over a long period of time. So, my advice to someone would be really, if you really want to do a thing and you feel like you are sufficiently determined to see it through, for years, then don’t let anything stop you. And probably nothing will stop you if you have those two things.
Effect of Covid and Brexit of Airdrop Bikes
The two things go hand in hand. First of all Brexit – there is nothing good about Brexit from a business point of view. It’s been a kick in the teeth. And then if you combine that with Covid, it’s made basically everything a lot harder. For example – the currency exchange rates are all over the place but generally not as good as they could be, availability of stock, availability of cardboard boxes, your ability to reach customers in the EU and rest of the world, your ability to get stuff made in the far east, or to buy products from any of our suppliers – all of that has got way harder. I think it’s been a massive challenge and although we are now in an ok place, I think just surviving have been the name of the game.
We moved to Sheaf Bank in February 2020 – just before Covid!
First of all, it was Josie’s obvious enthusiasm and her positivity about the whole enterprise. We came from a situation where we had a really big commercial, landlord that was completely indifferent to our business and our needs. They just wanted us to pay every month on time and couldn’t care less about anything else. We were in a building with holes in the wall, damp, rats, and all that stuff. That had been my whole experience of business property. And I came here and Josie was obviously passionate about all the different things that all the tenants were doing, and she was trying really hard to support everybody and to make sure that the whole enterprise has a positive future. That was quite an inspiring thing in its own right. I felt that she was a person that you could trust and who we could do business with and rely on. So that was incredibly refreshing at the time. Then when we saw the space, we just had to make it happen. It’s something people often talk about the sense of community here, it’s something that other people do talk about. Even though there isn’t anybody else really doing anything directly related to what we do – everybody else really cares about what they do.
Before moving here Sheaf Bank was invisible to me, even though I was spending considerable time looking for other property. For me it was that weird looking place down the ramp that you drive past, so it was really this undiscovered thing! I even used to live in Heeley! So, Sheaf Bank is also a kind of a best kept secret!